San Francisco Poet Laureate Kim Shuck is curating a Poem of the Day with San Francisco Public Library for every day during the COVID-19 pandemic. Check daily for new poetic offerings from assorted local poets.
Here is an archive of the previous Poems of the Day:
10:33 OUTSIDE YOUR LOCAL PRECINCT
by Darius Simpson
the state got a single action trigger
for a tongue or the military got an armory
sense of humor or white house neckties
casually point to brown land on desktop
globes and say dance say decompose or else
or occupation is a sad song if the troops
march to a ceaseless tempo or if you say
solidarity three times in a dark bathroom
you wake up with a face full of closed
casket or in a white mouth the wrong word
is gun powder or on the right side of state
violence gun on the brain makes you
target practice gun in the heart makes
you headline-worthy gun in hand makes
you old news or my parents were god-
fearing gamblers which makes me
two shakes short of good citizenship
so don’t ask me if i voted before you
ask about this knife between my shoulder
blades or the puppet strings on the mayor’s
cuff links or the curly pink tail on
the sheriff or bad jokes end in flat
lines and if you listen to the way tear
gas hisses you’ll hear pigs laughing.
by Raina Leon
today i feel time leaks from the pen
the dog has unrolled her pink tongue
saying laze with me a while
my hips ache from birthing six months ago
and no cushion and coil will sooth them
sometimes i think i should birth again
but on the right side to right the lopside
to sidle up with a swing that doesn’t pause
on stairs i can tell you there is a green lighted owl
i charge each day so that my father
does not fall i can tell you i put up a baby
gate as much for the child as for my father
as for me and i consider what white
metal has to say about saving us i cannot tell you
if this is a whiteness to love or if it is my love
how my grip extends beyond my body in steel bars
i can tell you that i am fleshy and have accepted
the pillow of my body is a curl and not a buffer
i can tell you that i fall
and how i fall like the time in this pen
by Mary Gayle Thomas
This beautiful planet we’re on amazes me constantly.
l walk in the open air, joyfully filling my lungs,
simply because I can.
Because I feel like it.
Simple acts of walking and looking
and my chest rising and falling
as air fills my lungs and then is released -
These are the ultimate feelings of being alive.
Walking in new areas offers new experiences.
I look at houses and gardens and dogs
Children play games and smile,
I remember my own childhood games.
I walk to enjoy the architecture of different buildings and
Wonder about street names I’ve never seen before.
Sometimes walking makes me so happy,
I have to run for a bit.
Just because I can.
These are no small blessings, and they aren’t lost on me.
Having the free time to walk,
being able to walk at all --
These are blessings indeed.
But having the freedom to walk in public places,
to walk in different neighborhoods,
That’s not a blessing.
That’s a privilege.
That’s my white privilege.
Because my muscles and blood and organs
Are wrapped in pale, white skin,
I have the privilege to walk, anywhere, looking around.
To walk - or even run - anywhere
with no reason except that
I. Want. To.
I walk, or I run, with no expectation of being questioned,
No anticipation of being accused.
That’s my white privilege.
A privilege I didn’t earn. A privilege I accidentally fell into.
No one wonders why I’m wandering around
Because I have the privilege.
And because I have the privilege to do so,
The air continues to fill my lungs,
My chest continues to rise and fall,
And *I* can breathe.
Don’t repeat your neighborhood to anyone
by Tongo Eisen-Martin
That’s my cousin eulogized now in literary history… wasn’t pretty… this effect on my eternal soul
I tried to cry on the side (face in a sink full of alcohol)
Fine flowers of struggle
that color spectrum the cousin
who is dead if you brace yourself
It’s hard to write without my friend
No Malcolm positions on East Coast warfare
My friend---in the audience with the earth’s coming mood
The organizing is all over me
Let me divine you the Lenox Ave. of the future…the river just keeps riding freights town to town
Violent revolution in this very year
Open your paper to us
Rulers of the night train
Your humble dishwashers who lived to hum the details
To look into the future like a gentleperson
Three fifths of a typewriter
Do some math with me here in the absence of confidence
The luxuries of a paranoia that you can finish later
My friend died yesterday
Like belated parenting, we haunt each other in quick bursts now
Sample the drug
Wrestle the angel
No depth of setting
Hiding behind the hordes because I’m in the train business
You don’t need a ticket for a winter that only happened here
(Behind this room is my mind/ashes runneth over
Throwing around this room is my mind/brim of an innocent soul)
Which dollar deserves my neck?
Thinking about you is like sharing a ghost with half of the city’s afterlife
Thinking about you centers us
I’m just a small man in a basement window chronicling material conditions
Boiling water next to a change in the course of poor people’s consciousness
I cannot impress you with the names of guns
We haunt each other with absolute pragmatism
With the truth of Afrikan transcendence
Another city ends
We hear the fire out
“I never really did like the car they found me in”
Imagine what defines a creature
where remnants of concrete put none of the world down
except slabs of a dead-beat nationalism
or a bloodline making the news again
True, I have an absence of style
Just a door step moving dead body to dead body
San Francisco Has a New Poet Laureate
by Kim Shuck
Pick any street corner
Any fourth star
In this city or over it
You will hear the water of time
Heart and innovation
War and colonization and patience and the mint that only grows on the south side of that mountain right there
You will hear the poetry of place
Popcicle sticks scratching on the curb
Clap songs and
Jump rope spells and
Every night in some back room QR Hand reads the future and the past in autopsied words
The Babar poems
Bob Kaufman’s guerilla words shouted at the unsuspecting somewhere in North Beach
The skyline mutters poems that have been and poems to come
And if you stand in the Café La Boheme’s door too long
You might hear Alfoncito yelling what we will choose to call a poem
Old Wives Tales still hover faint along Valencia
You can listen to the purring of the various fogs
As they pad over Eureka and Noe peaks
Wolo’s paintings comment quietly on every new show in Kerouac alley
If your hearing is very good
Abrose’s dictionary runs on a loop in a certain bar
On a certain bar stool
And the faint laughter from Sam’s jokes will still grind Brett’s teeth
Prayers for the plague victims
In more languages than you can count
Mumble down Grant and twine with the poems of the Unbound Feet Three
There are songs of burying and unburying to be found all over the Richmond
Every headstone under the sand at Ocean Beach
Mary and Carol Lee and Paula talk story in classrooms at State, at tables in cafés turned to bars
John’s words rattle justice
Through the rusting bars of Alcatraz and the voices of those taken in Captain Jack’s War have made them into their own songs too
There is an eighth poet laureate of San Francisco
And with the title comes
More wealth in words
Than in all of the great libraries that have ever been
I’m surprised but I’m not shocked so I’m just saying, ‘damn okay’
by Alexandra Naughton
a tiny thorn smoldering in my lower lip
an idea that I cannot piece together
no matter what self-hypnosis or
reckless methods I employ
an aspect a shadow behind a milky screen
a shape I can only stab at bluntly
writing and ruining the remnants
an intention misunderstood following and haunting
like a face in a passing vehicle I see from under busted bicycle
my own accident, my own creation, distracted by my own daydreaming
under handlebars twisted toward the sun like angry limbs
pulling myself onto sidewalk with all but the present missing
looking back in divination of a certain memory
recounting people met at parties; Myspace profiles visited
anywhere I might have seen this driver before
returning the gaze in what I think is a mutual recognition
watching the eyes pursue mine as the vehicle gets smaller
a feeling of recognition I will never be able to confirm
an idea that will never feel solid
a description made with timid limpfigured gestures
tainted in a probable daze of incongruent sentences
Kiss The Wind
by Grace D’Anca 6.13.20
Kiss the wind without guilt.
It chills and pants at the back door
with wild tiger cats waiting for scraps.
Pop open the red umbrella and dance
in no-rain to percussion in your head
while another withers more and more.
Capture the essence of beauty in a cup
with a broken handle, spiderwebs
on the windowsill, though another
sees only snakes and petrified trash.
House your dreams in a hoosier
in a back room that looks on the cyclone
tree the troubled child climbs
no matter what voice calls to him.
Does he know his father will be murdered
Imagine. Survive the embittered anima.
Jitter and jump on Saturday mornings
when the house is vacant. Slide the hallways
on slippery feet. Fling open doors. Dare
to be ebullient while the albatross flies.
Kiss the wind through battered red shutters
your mama rescued from a train. She always
saw possibility and muted her ears
to the wailing
Laugh out your belly button
so hard you spit
snort through your nose
Sometimes that’s all there is.
Praise the ocean, reject
regrets that stop time.
Tiptoe and stomp in honor of living
inspite of moribundity.
and wish for wonder.
And What Will You Admit
by Robert Pesich
when the zero hour in your name
demands that grief be accompanied
by solitude and a yielding
to a current that removes you
from what you call home to a shoreline
where nothing more can be done
but let the birds and breaking
waves speak through the amalgams
they create from the useless and abandoned
how to find the secret colors
present in a halftoned landscape
not unlike the royal purple
gleaming in the dusty eyes
of their black feathers
focused on origin and horizon
present in every direction.
The Garden (For Mira and June)
by Tenuja Mehrotra Wakefield
If I build you a bower
of willow to spill over and swing upon
or a maze of high-walled stone
for hiding, and I show you how
earthworms shine in the sun when unearthed,
would you entwine like the jasmine vine?
If I help you steady the shovel, dig deeply
in the dirt so that it blooms under your
fingernails, or let you wander barefoot
over rocks, eat marigold petals, save
all the deadheads, sip sand, get stung,
would you roll each other down this hill forever?
If I left you alone in this suburban
silhouette of grass and flower bed,
would you cleave together through
drought and rain, wind and sun?
Would you eat from the same apple?
“Late to the Party”
by Casey Gardiner
Imagine you are at a high school party.
Liquor stains every corner of the room.
You are actually wearing a dress.
Boys that you have known for years
ask: your name, can they get you a drink,
Do you want to dance.
They wonder why
they didn’t see you here earlier.
You decline their offers, tell them
It was probably because
you were late to the party.
You kind of just want to go home.
This isn’t really your kind of party.
You are at a college party
where everyone has the same haircut.
You do not understand why.
This party is for you.
It’s your party. You’re just
not convinced it’s your party.
There is a Tegan and Sarah song
playing off of someone’s record player.
Everyone knows the words.
You do not know the words.
You are shy. Talk to no one.
No one talks to you either.
You don’t make any new friends.
You assume that this is because
you were late to the party.
The one that’s supposed to be
You are thirty now
a good ten years too old for this.
San Francisco night club,
You got the haircut and learned the song.
but everyone has a different haircut now.
They sing songs you do not know.
They use apps you do not have.
They may have tasted love, but
never been wounded by it, never
tripped walking through the door.
You show up early, to try
to make up for lost time.
You are still late to the party.
You arrive and the party has ended.
Everyone has gone home together,
You stand alone, in your best clothes,
with the lights out, music off,
trying to find a reason to dance.
You do not go to parties much anymore.
You sit at home, imagining
that you met a girl in college
who stayed the night and never left.
Poem of the day
by Jeanne Lupton
the plum tree lets go
her yellow leaves
wind revealing bare bones
that so recently wore blooms
Not A Woman Poem
by Monica Korde
When you forage for poppies
remember how fragile they are,
carry a basket and a bucket
of water. Take some newspapers
to keep them safe.
To protect them from
wind and sun. Leave an opening
for the scarlet heads, and
allow them to breathe
fresh air. The green stems
leave a lactiferous trail, and
crumbs of moist
earth. To keep them alive longer
burn the ends,
put the petioles
on fire. The flowers are
meek survivors. They will not speak
or, protest. They will live another day, and call it
by Josephine Torio
I can hear
The wringing of hands
At the World's End
by Jason Whitacre
I missed the train today.
I missed the train to Tripoli in tattered clothes
with a girl crafted of curtains
on rails made from saltwater nails
riding the soft glow of a night sky conductor.
Roaring ahead towards a shift-switch sunrise.
I have missed trains before.
Missed the melting of hot rails congealing with the coastline
Creating a place where sun vaporizes plant life
with holy fire.
I've always hated the heat in California.
It sits inside your skin for days
Spreading patience across vast valleys.
Such strenuous circumstance stress the need
for cold & solitary places
Far away from the sun.
We can dance on exoplanets for days in chilled and exotic rain,
We must exit alone. and can not by train.
We must earn our ticket to bliss.
Fight until we bleed with our hearts, not our fists,
and dive, head first into a dimming horizon.
We'll arrive on rails made from star light.
Pretend the darkness is not the crippling night
Gaining our pass to paradise through the Port of Parasites.
Where we feed, ravenously, on paltry discontent.
Pushing forward to a quiet death
Until we awaken
Illuminated to the morning light.
There is no safe passage over the sea.
No steel ship to ferry your dreams
to the far away shores, deadly serene.
Our path to redemption has been held by haggard hands.
Hanging loosely from train engines
taught to destroy all that lies ahead.
Barreling through walls
Brick after iron filled brick.
Inching across each massive land
Racing through each patch of barren space.
So space is where we're wandering.
Not what we're asking for.
So to the brim we shall fill each pore.
Become burdensome stones
Sinking through layers of subway systems.
Hurling ourselves as deep as we can
Until we reach the bottom
and meet each other there.
I haven't pulled in just yet, you see,
I missed the train today.
I'm sure I will again.
Poem of the Day
by David Kirscher
Digest- The gist- Of this- Interment,
I watched the world choke life from what should flourish
The zeitgeist retro fitted until judged as worthless
But I guess that all depends on how you worship
Is the endless struggle even worth it?
To compromise your dream for the fabrics purpose
I'll promise you my shirt as the insurance
There's nothing left to purchase
The currency inflates to keep the poverty concurrent
Cutting edge medicine requires a verdict
Cadavers washed away in experimental currents
I'll just sleep all day
So could you close the curtains?
I've memorized the value of my verses
Asking warmer spirits to stretch their brittle courage
Children handed tech instead of nuristed
Eye contact now has to be encouraged
The programming has sunk into your circuits
Society is amassed through bread, wine & circus
Soldiers are abandoned after the contract on their service
Like the shedded scales off a serpent
Vetted husked handed off to nurses
This is the aftermath of the average skirmish
Reattach limbs and act like the memories of war
Wore no burnen,
School yard rubble still burning
Haunted handguns in the hands of rebels learn'n
That guerrilla tactics took away ah interview afforded an honest earn'en
Statistics are slanted towards the bias you're confirm'en
99% of the mazes outcome kills the vermin
But the Architect's advice for the mice is to remain determined
We're not moving forward just because the gears are turn'en
The fact that Trump got votes is still disturb'en
Unjust prejudice pointed towards a turban
While politics is about subtly discussing the value in a person?
Never trust the hate speech imbedded in a sermon
Are you the master of your reality or just a servant
The lines dividing black and white are burling that's for certain
by Michael Stewart
My children kiss my hands
My lovers have kissed my hands
They've always a commented on their warmth
I have broken fingers
and bouts of neuropathy
The needle pricks and dangerous numbers
of my thickening blood
Yet, I'm a hospital legend
I debated the doctors of what
I won't do and tell them
What I can
I crashed in mid flight
last year and gashed
open my shin
Yesterday, I realized
my fathers bullet wound
as I said who's leg is that
the mirror betrays me
All the angles are deceptive
So I don't look
as often and Fall brings me
back to the overpass
where the road seemed to cold
and a random person whom
remembered my laugh
offered a ride
Before I wished I was someone else.
I wish I was still me.
“16th and Mission Suite”
by Kool Kat
I want to be
like the leprechaun with the pot of gold
you got me sold how Santa delivers his poem
and we have pon—and we have pon
with too many noggs it must be fun
coming up with new ideas for blogs
like the frogs in the swamp
hanging out with the chickens and crocs
in the big Apple
drinking something helado; meaning “cold” in Spanish
I have to walk 20 city blocks
f**k that shit I'm losing my mind
looking at future clocks
puffing habits, kool like Too $hort
smoking a Newport I met a Smurf
who knew how to surf
gangster Kats are meowing for turf
Chilling on a rainbow
smoking blunts with Willy Wonka
you know he keeps that killa ganja
I went down the rabbit hole but couldn't find Alice
Now pass this magic blunt and let's enjoy some 16th and mission poetry and keep it krunk
We are reposting this poem from June 24 2020, in honor of the passing of q.r. hand.
Rest in Power
Poem of the Day
by q.r. hand
i am the equal opportunity thief
i steal from each moment i can
some triflin’ fact about which
no care can be construed by
anybody but myself and demon
i’m as easily lightfingered
with glances as galaxies and
spend at least a certain part of
every afternoon casing the joint
so to speak so as not to miss my chance
i’m not particular about precious stones
and works of art are worth only in conception
whose price is deceit
a sprite of a lad he what
i was drunk for work today
before i even got up
for that matter woke
if you want to call this awake
and because my as ifs are on scramble
i never know which lie it is i’m telling at the moment
that I tell it in
“Let’s just take a second…”
by Tanisha Gupta
Where the fuck is the magic?
Did it drip down the side of your limp arms, down your legs into a puddle on the ground?
The rain washed it away,
alongside the garbage, into the sewage drains.
As it flooded down the dirty streets,
it touched loosely the vagrant and wild;
tapped their filthy arms, and crusty toes that stuck out from overworn socks,
filling them with illumination and wonder.
Strawberry eyes, overripened in the dazzling sun
limp bodies, with racing minds
electric and enchanted.
As you sipped your morning latte, with the precarious
fleur-de-lys pattern, hand crafted, always,
for your delicate pleasure.
The wild came calling
but you missed the call,
because you were too busy
pissing out last night's champagne.
I am waiting that everything you say
by Terry Adams
I am waiting that everything you say will be held against you in a court of law
I am waiting that everything you say will be repeated in the court of the hereafter.
I am waiting that everything you say was said before.
I am waiting that everything you say is the only way you touch.
I am waiting that everything you say is building your home
I am waiting that everything you say will not lie down in your casket
I am waiting that everything you say is solid as anger and invisible as the Pentagon.
I am waiting that everything you say is hoarse with voices of ancient fire and cried through the breath of the hunted
I am waiting that everything you say is spelled in the ink of need
I am waiting that everything you say begins the reconstruction of the mind
I am waiting that everything you say is the shape of music and the power of strawberries
I am waiting that everything you say lightens the burden of the future
anything you say should be complete in the time it takes
to give your cat an enema
the body is the nun of your lonely thoughts
the priest of our oldest wishes.
Your wireless minutes have exceeded their limits you have unused
icons on your desktop I am waiting that everything you say
your voice is a vote for the party of the unspeakable
your voice is a claim for the innocence of hell
I am waiting that everything you say will drag you by the nape of your neck
We are caretakers in fire-watch towers in a single forest,
We are tenders of medieval gardens,
We are silent at the oil cloth table light bulb vigil
high over sunflowers abandoned and bending
We are champagne wedding in earliest sun
we are Martin Luther at the celestial suggestion box
which face is yours at the Greyhound window — are you reflected
in the glass of night?
Are you the spark advancing along the beach
Are you slung across a saddle on the way to Kabul
Is yours the scream that will stop the clatter of machineguns
Are you electrocuted at the microphone
Your sentence will pardon the eyeless and open the ears that are buried in doors
You are an unlawful assembly
you are an unlawful assembly
The rock of the law is the sand around your feet
Your description of the sunrise begins the healing of the world
Your description of the spirit is the birth of the Spirit
Your question is the question the Universe has been waiting for
Your command tells the future to begin
you are shuffling a stack of grammar parts at a language fire
under the freeway
you are advancing the spark in the motor of breath
Shake your can of verbs onto the bar top
buy a round of soul for the vagrant children
Is there a lighted wick crackling along the base of your spine
Is there a lighted wick crackling in the base of your spine
Journey (for Sheleigh)
by Jade Bradbury
When lichens start
the rock does not resist,
in fact submits, or doesn’t
with simply being there.
But lichen-time wears away
relentlessly and when
at last this blooming leveler
has done its reductive
deed, all fluidity,
a micro-landscape that travels
light all down the rivers
and into the sea, its mother—
she then rimmed with tiny
stars upon her moonlit